Sources: Mavs to pursue Johnson

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will pursue a sign-and-trade to lure Atlanta Hawks free agent Joe Johnson(notes), league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Mavericks are unlikely to engage the Cleveland Cavaliers into a sign-and-trade for LeBron James(notes), but Johnson has emerged as a realistic target for the Mavericks. Johnson, is more likely to embrace a sign-and-trade to the contending Mavs than sign a free-agent contract with New York or Chicago, sources said.

“New York is far from his first option,” one source with knowledge of Johnson’s thinking said.

Johnson will meet with New York officials on Thursday in Los Angeles, but sources warn that Johnson is unlikely to choose the Knicks unless he’s joining them as part of a star tandem. He isn’t built – physically or psychologically – to carry a franchise and the prospect of trying to play the part of savior for New York is unrealistic.

The Knicks will turn swiftly to a Plan B that includes Johnson once they believe they’re completely out of the chase for James.

Johnson turned down a four-year, $60 million extension from the Hawks before the season, and it could take an offer in the neighborhood of $90 million to keep him in Atlanta. Johnson had a fine season for the Hawks – averaging 21 points – but faded to 12.8 points per game in the Orlando Magic’s sweep of the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Johnson was raised in Arkansas and has a comfort level living in the Southwest. Johnson, 28, is facing the final major contract of his career, and sources believe he’s far less likely to sign with a team under the cap and cost himself millions than having his agent Arn Tellem aggressively pursue a sign-and-trade. Johnson is determined to get the sixth guaranteed season on a contract that could only come with re-signing in Atlanta or a sign-and-trade arrangement, sources say.

The Mavericks have a pool of talent that could entice Atlanta general manager Rick Sund into making a deal for Johnson. The Mavericks believe they'll re-sign Dirk Nowitzki(notes), who is expected to opt-out of his contract. They're intrigued with a lineup that would include Johnson as the shooting guard.

The Hawks are still expected to try and sign Johnson, but sources don’t believe they’ll offer a maximum contract to him. So far, Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo is the only executive who has suggested he’s willing to do a sign-and-trade for his star. Colangelo will try to get some return on the inevitable loss of All-Star forward Chris Bosh(notes).